Wednesday, April 20, 2016

9:50 AM 4/20/2016 - Headlines and Articles

9:33 AM 4/20/2016 - Headlines: April 19, 2016

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April 19, 2016
Dutch court overturns $50 billion Yukos award against Russia | Reuters
Dutch Court Quashes $50 Billion Yukos Shareholders' Award - ABC News
Court overturns Russia's $50bn Yukos shareholder payout - BBC News
Moscow wins legal battle over $50bn Yukos shareholders′ compensation | News | DW.COM | 20.04.2016
Russia Wins $50 Billion Ruling in Decade-Old Fight With Yukos - Bloomberg
Yukos Ruling: How We Got Here
NATO, Russia Hold Highest Level Talks For Almost Two Years
Why Russia Harasses U.S. Aircraft | Stratfor
Russia Moves Artillery to Northern Syria, U.S. Officials Say - WSJ
The Latest: Putin and Obama Discuss Syria Situation - ABC News
Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday: Lunch with Obama and 1,000 bonfires - The Washington Post
U.S. defense chief lays ground for Obama meeting with Gulf allies | Reuters
Obama Arrives in Saudi Arabia Amid a New Round of Contention - The New York Times
Obama Shouldn’t Trade Cluster Bombs for Saudi Arabia’s Friendship - The New York Times
Carter Urges GCC to Focus on Islamic State, Regional Security
Sending the Wrong Signal to Turkey - The New York Times
The Daily Vertical: The Kremlin's Spin, NATO's Reality (Transcript)
Ted Cruz's New York value: Zero delegates - POLITICO
Ex-Soviet Dissident Bukovsky Starts Hunger Strike In Britain
Thousands Expected at San Francisco's 4/20 Party - ABC News
Brothers Charged With Killing Missing Washington Couple - ABC News
Facing Impeachment, Dilma Rousseff Fights for Political Survival - The New York Times
In Farewell, Fidel Castro Urges Party to Fulfill His Vision - The New York Times
Washington Post: Breaking News, World, US, DC News & Analysis - The Washington Post
Oh, thank heaven! We now know how Trump will make America great again. - The Washington Post
Hillary Clinton wins decisive victory over Bernie Sanders in New York primary | US news | The Guardian
Donald Trump secures essential home-state win in New York | US news | The Guardian
Clinton and Trump wins in New York change little on national scale | US news | The Guardian
New York Celebrates Clinton, Trump Victories
Nearly Two Years Into Sanctions, Can Russia Live Without Europe? - Forbes
Russian Oil Output, Exports May Rise After Doha Deal Fails - Bloomberg
Russia Ranked 148 in World Press Freedom Index – Reporters Without Borders | News | The Moscow Times
Russian Deputy Culture Minister’s Assets Frozen After Embezzlement Charges | News | The Moscow Times
Growing Number of Russians Think State Has Failed in Duties to Citizens - Poll | News | The Moscow Times
More Than Half of Russians Want New Soviet State - Poll | News | The Moscow Times
Ъ - «Очень удивлены этому решению»
Вручение верительных грамот Президенту России • Президент России

4.19.16 Tu

Obama Calls on Putin to Help Reduce Violence in Syria After Peace Talks Stall - The New York Times
Телефонный разговор с Президентом США Бараком Обамой • Президент России
Afghan Taliban launch attack in central Kabul, killing at least 28 | Reuters
Kabul Explosion Leaves Dozens Dead and Hundreds Hurt - The New York Times
Analysts: Russia Plays Double Game in Afghanistan
NATO to Discuss Russia’s Risky Military Maneuvers - WSJ
Russian jets keep buzzing U.S. ships. What can the US do? -
Estonian Report Details Russia’s ‘Hybrid Threat’ to Europe
What Iran Needs to Fix - The New York Times
Obama to Visit a Saudi Arabia Deep in Turmoil - The New York Times
Ahead of Saudi Trip, Obama Wedged in Debate Over 9/11 Report Secrecy - NBC News
Clinton and Trump look to N.Y. primary to cement front-runner status - The Washington Post
Trump’s national field director quits amid major staff changes - The Washington Post
Shadow mission
Kerry Vows to Continue Push for Israeli-Palestinian Peace
Indonesia Admits Shortfalls in Dealing With Mentally Ill
Russian Rejects European Human Rights Court Ruling | News | The Moscow Times
Рабочая встреча с Председателем Правительства Дмитрием Медведевым • Президент России
NEWS: The World and Global Security Review: 9:16 AM 4/19/2016 - Headlines: Analysts: Russia Plays Double Game in Afghanistan | Afghan Taliban launch attack in central Kabul, killing at least 28 | Reuters
NEWS: The World and Global Security Review: 9:16 AM 4/19/2016 - Headlines: Analysts: Russia Plays Double Game in Afghanistan...
NEWS: The World and Global Security Review: NATO and Russia to meet, but grievances remain | Reutersby mikenova Tuesday April 19th, 2016 at 5:52 PM

4.18.16 M

Uncovering the Hidden Truths of 9/11 | Observer
Uncovering the Hidden Truths of 9/11 | The XX Committee
News Reviews and Opinions: Uncovering the Hidden Truths of 9/11 Monday April 18th, 2016 at 1:55 PM
NEWS: The World and Global Security Review: 8:42 AM 4/18/2016 - Headlines: Dilma Rousseff Is Impeached by Brazil’s Lower House of Congress - The New York Times
NEWS: The World and Global Security Review: Doha Oil Talks Fail: What Happens Next? Monday April 18th, 2016 at 9:59 AM
Gay penguins Stan and Olli are not alone – video | Science | The Guardian
The latest idea for defeating the Islamic State: Legalize pot - The Washington Post
US to send 200 more troops, Apache helicopters, to fight Islamic State group in Iraq amid push to retake key city of Mosul - The Washington Post
US extra troops to boost fight against IS in Iraq - BBC News
US to send Apache helicopters, more troops to help in Mosul fight - Middle East - Stripes
Obama has few answers for the Kurds - Opinion - Stripes
Saudis try to clean up image ahead of Obama visit - POLITICO
Doha Oil Talks Fail: What Happens Next?
Top Shots
Dilma Rousseff Is Impeached by Brazil’s Lower House of Congress - The New York Times
It's up to you, New York: state takes center stage in election campaign | Reuters
Commodities -
A Challenge to Poland’s Anti-Democratic Drift - The New York Times
UC Berkeley student removed from Southwest flight after speaking Arabic on plane - The Washington Post
The saddest piece of Barack Obama’s legacy - The Washington Post
Bernie Sanders draws record crowd in Brooklyn as race takes darker tone | US news | The Guardian
US Defense Secretary in Iraq for Talks on Beefing Up IS Fight
Obama under pressure to declassify secret 9/11 report amid worries of Saudi retaliation - CBS News
Bernie Sanders’s Brownstone Brooklyn Revolution Misses the Point - The Daily Beast
U.S. and Russia meet on cybersecurity -
Russia: Why the worst is over for our economy
Ъ-Газета - Александра Лукашенко приняли в исламе
Ъ - Михаилу Касьянову прописали праймериз
Встреча с Президентом Государства Палестина Махмудом Аббасом • Президент России
The Morning Vertical, April 18, 2016
The Daily Vertical: Watch What He Does, Not What He Says (Transcript)
bne IntelliNews - STOLYPIN: Bastrykin’s manifesto for the 'North Koreanisation' of Russia
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Russia Moves Artillery to Northern Syria, U.S. Officials Say – WSJ 

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Deployment is a sign, the officials say, that Moscow and the Assad government are preparing for a return to full-scale fighting.

Why Russia Harasses U.S. Aircraft | Stratfor 

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Moscow is using a common military tactic to discourage Washington from operating in strategic regions.

More Than Half of Russians Want New Soviet State – Poll | News | The Moscow Times 

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More than half of Russians would like to see the restoration of the Soviet Union, according to a poll released Tuesday.

The Early Edition: April 20, 2016 

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Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
Syria ceasefire collapses. Government warplanes conducted heavy airstrikes on a busy market in Maarat al-Numan in Idlib province yesterday, killing dozens of people. The attack appeared to mark the end of peace negotiations in Geneva, the main opposition High Negotiations Committee saying the truce was finished and it would stay out of talks indefinitely. [New York Times’ Anne Barnard; Reuters’ John Irish and Tom Perry; Wall Street Journal’s Nour Malas and Sam Dagher]
The Washington Post editorial board criticizes the White House for “prop[ping] up” a “sham ceasefire” in Syria, commenting that the cessation of hostilities is “dead but lives on in the otherworldly rhetoric of its promoters, headed by the Obama administration.”
Turkish forces killed 32 suspected ISIS fighters yesterday in the Bashiqa region of northern Iraq, following an attack on a Turkish tank at a military base there, according to broadcaster CNN Turk. [Reuters] 
The Islamic State gained territory from the Syrian government yesterday, following fierce fighting for control of the eastern city of Deir al-Zor, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [Reuters] 
US lawmakers Rep Barbara Lee and Sen John McCain are concerned that President Obama’s decision to deploy additional American troops to Iraq is mission creep. Kristina Wong reports. [The Hill]
The family of Steven Sotloff are suing the Syrian government in an American court. Sotloff was kidnapped and killed by ISIS in 2014; his family are claiming that the Assad regime provided support to the militants that beheaded Sotloff. [AP]
US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces carried out one strike against Islamic State targets in Syria on April 18. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 17 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
President Obama arrives in Saudi Arabia today, part of a three nation tour including the UK and Germany, that comes at a time of friction between the US and allies. Michael Crowley reports that: “Obama will be doing little more than a little damage control.” [Politico] Frank Gardner at the BBCreports that the US decision to lift sanctions against Riyadh’s rival Iran is a key cause of damaged relations.
“But American arms transfers to Saudi Arabia are questionable not only on human rights grounds.They also have negative strategic consequences.” William D. Hartung makes the case for why Obama shouldn’t “trade cluster bombs” for Riyadh’s friendship, at the New York Times.
Terror legislation bill. Multiple Democratic lawmakers suggested they would support legislation that would allow 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, defying President Obama’s position on the bill. [Politico’s Seung Min Kim] And Republic Senator Lindsey Graham has said that he would drop his opposition to the bill and consider supporting it; Graham said his support was contingent upon changes to the bill, which he did not elucidate upon. [New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti and Jennifer Steinhauer]
The Pentagon has expressed concerns over the legislation, one defense official saying that “we don’t need this debate right now.” [The Daily Beast’s Nancy A. Youssef and Shane Harris]
The “fusion center” is a new group supported by the EU, designed to synthesize information from across the continent’s bureaucracies in order to create an “early-warning system” that will help to detect threats from “hybrid warfare” and may help to prevent terrorism. [Wall Street Journal’s Julian E Barnes]
France intends to extend the “state of emergency” in place since the November Paris attacks to cover the Euro 2016 soccer tournament, due to take place from June 10. The powers originate from the Algerian war in the 1950s, and allow police to conduct house raids and searches without warrants or judicial oversight. [The Guardian’s Angelique Chrisafis; Reuters]
Islamic State is planning to attack tourists at beach resorts throughout Europe this summer, according to German newspaper Bild, which cited Italian security forces. [Fox News]
A million UK workers are due to be trained to deal with terror attacks over the next year, the National Police Chiefs Council will announce shortly. This is an extension of a current program which sees around 100,000 of those who work in densely populated areas being trained each year. [BBC]
Outside coordination with Islamic State supporters has been “ruled out” by the data discovered on the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, according to US law enforcement officials. Hacking the phone has also revealed that its owner did not use encrypted communications. [CNN’s Evan Perez et al]
The FBI needs to work with hackers as tech companies become evermore resistant to its demands for consumers’ information, its executive assistant director for science and technology informed lawmakers debating potential encryption legislation yesterday. [New York Times’ Cecilia Kang and Eric Lichtblau]  NPR’s Renee Montagne has spoken to former director of cybersecurity policy for the National Security Council, Robert Knake about the “complex relationships between technology companies, professional hackers and the government.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has sued the Department of Justice in an effort to acquire any orders sought or obtained by the DoJ from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court which force tech companies to decrypt user communications. [Reuters’ Dan Levine]
Apple has been asked for its source code by China in the past two years but refused to provide it, the company’s main lawyer informed lawmakers yesterday, responding to criticism of its position on technology security. [Reuters’ Dustin Volz]
The FBI and the NSA have failed to delete data collected about people on the internet in violation of “several provisions” of its internal policies, according to an opinion from the federal court overseeing US intelligence agencies, declassified yesterday. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]  The omissions have made the judge overseeing government surveillance programs “extremely concerned” about what the two intelligence agencies referred to as “compliance incidents.” [Politico’s Josh Gerstein]
The White House defended Vice President Joe Biden’s critical comments about Israel made on Monday, Press Secretary Josh Earnest insisting that Israel is the US’s strongest ally in the Middle East and that the two nations’ relationship is able to accommodate disagreements on “some critically important policy issues.” [Politico’s Nick Gass; The Hill’s Jordan Fabian]
“A new kind of terror.” Saer, West Bank, has produced more Palestinians who have attacked Israeli guards than any other town during the surge of violence over the past six months. William Booth reports on the legacy of those “frustrated ‘lone wolves’.” [Washington Post]
Israel’s Tourism Ministry has released a “distorted” map of the old city of Jerusalem, showing 57 Jewish locations but only one Muslim. Those responsible for this “one-sided map” have been “caught red-handed trying to forge history,” says Daoud Kuttab. [Al Jazeera]
Prison guards at Guantánamo Bay delivered a Yemeni “forever prisoner” to the wrong cell prior to his parole board hearing, causing him such distress that he was unable to present himself properly, his advocate has written in a filing released yesterday.
Yesterday’s terror attack in Kabul serves as a “bloody reminder” that the war in Afghanistan is “spiralling to new levels of violence,” writes Emma Graham-Harrison, noting that urban areas that were once considered reasonably safe now the scene of fighting. [The Guardian]  The death toll following al-Qaeda’s suicide bomb and gun attack in Kabul yesterday has risen to 64. [BBC]
Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to discuss ways to make sure the nuclear deal is implemented as originally intended yesterday, Kerry statingafterward that they had “worked out a number of key things” and “achieved progress” and that they will meet again on Friday. [Reuters]
The US imposed sanctions on Khalifa al-Ghweil, the leader of the self-styled government of Tripoli, in an effort to compel acceptance of the UN-backed unity government among Libya’s opposing parties, yesterday. [New York Times’ Declan Walsh]
Clusters of the 276 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram two years ago have been sighted “on several occasions” since, US officials have said, but rescue operations have not been performed out of fear that resultant battles with the terrorist captors would put the girls at risk. [New York Times’ Helene Cooper]
Delegates from the Houthi movement and the party of ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh have said they will travel to Kuwait today to take part in the UN-backed peace talks that were due to begin two days ago. [Reuters]
Cuba’s Communist party has re-elected Raúl Castro, despite the fact that Castro himself has made “generation change a priority,” reports Marc Frank, speaking to a Cuba expert, who suggests that the decision is intended to send the message that “nothing changes” despite the recent easing of relations with the US. [Financial Times]  As the announcement was made, Raúl’s brother and revolutionary leader Fidel Castro delivered a rare speech, urging party members to preserve his ideas into the future. [AP’s Michael Weissenstein]
A fifth nuclear test by North Korea could trigger further UN Security Council sanctions, a US diplomat for the Asia-Pacific region told reporters yesterday. [Reuters’ Arshad Mohammed and David Brunnstrom]
Read on Just Security »
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Today's Headlines and Commentary 

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Major bombings in both Jerusalem and Kabul lead headlines today, with more than 20 people injured in Israel, while in Afghanistan, at least 28 people were killed  and more than were 325 injured.
The Washington Post reports that in Jerusalem, “two buses burst into flames during Monday afternoon’s rush hour after an explosive device detonated in one of the vehicles.” Israeli officials have labelled the bombing a terrorist attack, but no group has yet claimed responsibility. The attack comes just as a wave of Palestinian attacks was subsiding; the Post notes that the nature of the attack immediately brought back memories of the second intifada, when bus bombings were common.
In Kabul, the suicide blast targeted the gates of the main training ground for an Afghan intelligence unit charged with protecting senior officials, shredding part of the compound and shattering windows up for two miles away. Following the explosion, Taliban fighters opened fire on what the Post calls “Afghanistan’s equivalent of the Secret Service,” beginning a gun battle that would last for three hours. The assault, which Reuters characterizes as “the deadliest single attack in the Afghan capital since 2011,” took place less than a mile from the presidential palace and “represented a direct strike against the Western-aided government.”  
The assault comes just days afer the Taliban announced the beginning of its spring offensive. The Institute for the Study of War has updated its “Afghanistan Partial Threat Assessment,” where you can catch up on the facts on the ground.
In a speech in Baghdad yesterday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that the United States will send additional American military advisers to the front lines against the Islamic State in Iraq as part of “a series of measures that will escalate the United States military campaign to defeat the extremist group.” In addition to dispatching 217 additional advisers—there are now over 5,000 U.S. troops operating in Iraq—the new measures will move American forces from the divisional level to the battalion level, putting them closer to the fight and allowing American enablers to have more impact on the daily tactical decisions in the fight. The Pentagon also plans to deploy Apache helicopters and long-range artillery. The plan includes a $415 million USD gift to the Kurdish regional government, which is expected to go towards paying and feeding Kurdish troops.
Speaking of Kurdish fighters, the Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. and Peshmerga forces have killed ISIS commander Salman Abu Shabib al Jebouri, who went by the nom de guerre, Abu Saif, and his two deputies. The Journal notes that al Jebouri had been a member of ISIS’s military council and was “responsible for acts of terrorism in Mosul.”
The announcement of enhanced American presence on the battlefield comes as peace talks in Syria unravel. Yesterday, the High Negotiations Committee, the chief diplomatic arm of the mainstream rebel groups, suspended participation in the peace talks in Geneva. Today, a senior opposition official told Reuters that the postponement of talks is “indefinite” and that any resumption is dependent on “correcting the path of the negotiations.” Even so, U.N. Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said that he would continue “technical” conversations with the parties by phone or off-site discussions with the goal of firming up a blueprint for a political transition. The chief negotiator for the HNC said that the cease-fire had “effectively been ended by the regime.” Rebel groups claimed that both the suspension of talks and the renewed offensives by rebel forces were in retaliation for violations of the cease-fire by the Syrian regime.  
The Washington Post describes the newly intensified fighting in the country, as government forces fight to repel the rebel offensive in Latakia. According to the PostSyrian government warplanes “bombed areas in central Homs and Hama provinces and in northern Idlib province.” The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the airstrikes, the deadliest since the cease-fire began in February, killed at least 44 civilians.
Curious about exactly who ISIS recruits and why people choose the join the organization? NBC Newsand the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point have processed a database of more than 4,000 foreign fighters from 71 countries that provides “new insight into the terror group’s grand ambitions and diverse recruits.” According to the report, NBC News received the documents from a Syrian man who claimed to have stolen the information from a senior ISIS commander. Counterterrorism analysts with West Point believe that the documents are genuine.
CNN reports that the Pentagon is not very happy with China’s decision to dispatch a military aircraft to the Fiery Cross Reef over the weekend. While Beijing said the aircraft was conducting a humanitarian mission to provide emergency assistance to three injured construction workers on the island, Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said that “it is unclear why the Chinese used a military aircraft, as opposed to a civilian one,” and called on China to “reaffirm that it has no plans to deploy or rotate military aircraft at its outposts in the Spratlys, in keeping with China’s prior assurances.”  
Yesterday, Hillary Clinton repeated her support for a bipartisan bill currently before Congress that would allow the families of victims of terrorist attacks to hold foreign governments accountable in American courts, potentially allowing Americans to sue the government of Saudi Arabia for any role its officials may have played in the attacks of September 11th, 2001. Both she and Senator Bernie Sanders released statements supporting the bill, putting them on the opposite side of the Obama administration. For its part, the Hill shares that the White House signalled yesterday President Obama would veto the legislation, with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest saying the bill puts “the whole notion of sovereign immunity at stake.” Saudi officials warned President Obama that they would sell off $750 billion in U.S. assets if the bill become U.S. law—an unlikely to be executed threat, but one that demonstrates the seriousness with which the Kingdom views the legislation.
Yet while the president offered the Saudis an olive branch before his meeting with King Salman this week, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes accused the Saudi government of paying “insufficient attention” to money being sent to the terror groups that fueled the rise of al Qaeda. On a podcast with David Axelrod, Rhodes suggested that wealthy Saudis provided the “seed money” for what would become al Qaeda. Politico has more on his remarks.
In the Washington Post, Greg Jaffe and Griff Witte write that as Obama leaves for the Persian Gulf,“the president’s tough, and unprecedented, critique of longtime Arab allies” and his “cold-eyed view” of the world has left him with few friends overseas. They write that on his farewell trip to the region, “one big challenge for Obama will be squaring the careful diplomatic rhetoric that’s a standard, and frequently stultifying, part of all presidential visits with his tougher, more honest language from interviews back home.”
Congress will hold no fewer than five hearings this week on encryption, and Benjamin Sasso of theNational Journal tells us that both “the technology industry and the law enforcement community are mobilizing for a major lobbying battle over” the Feinstein-Burr encryption legislation. At a press conference in Manhattan yesterday, several key law enforcement groups, including the FBI Agents Association, National District Attorneys Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police, among others, announced their support for the bill. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.framed the issue as one of victims’ rights. But lobbyists for the tech industry are actively working against the bill, pressuring members of Congress while Internet activists attempt to “rally grassroots pressure.”
Parting Shot: What happens if you—perhaps, while under the influence of a bit of alcohol—jokingly wire your friend money for “ISIS Beer Funds!!!”? According to one unfortunate writer, his not-so-funny joke resulted in his Venmo transfer being frozen, and quite a few aggressive inquiries from the app and Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare
Cody shared The Week That Will BeLawfare’s roundup of upcoming events and employment announcements.
Paul Rosenzweig asked “what if Feinstein-Burr passes?”
Adam Klein published the first in a series of posts about how and when wars against terrorists groups end.
Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us onTwitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.
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Why Russia Harasses U.S. Aircraft

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A Russian Su-24 jet makes a close-range and low-altitude pass near the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea on April 12. Russia sometimes uses close interceptions to deter U.S. craft without sparking outright combat. (U.S. Navy)


Since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, tension with the West has been high, affecting eastern UkraineSyria and hot spots across the former Soviet sphere. Less overtly, Moscow has been working to protect areas vital to Russian interests by raising the stakes of U.S. operations there. This has manifested in numerous aggressive interceptions of U.S. military aircraft in flight, especially over the Black and Baltic seas. The interceptions, which are reportedly occurring more frequently, aim to dissuade Washington from operating in that airspace. 


On April 14, a Russian Su-27 fighter jet performed a barrel roll maneuver over a U.S. Air Force RC-135 spy plane flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea. Just three days earlier, two Russian Su-24 bombers flew dangerously and repeatedly close to a U.S. destroyer, also in the Baltic Sea. The most recent intercept came less than a week before the NATO-Russia Council is set to convene for the first time since 2014. Along with the fighting in Ukraine and Afghanistan, military transparency and risk reduction — timely and relevant topics given the interception incidents — will be up for discussion at the meeting.
Not all interceptions are aggressive. In fact, the tactic is standard practice among militaries, both in the air and at sea. Around the world, aircraft and ships from a multitude of countries routinely intercept, visually inspect and escort other aircraft and maritime vessels passing through sensitive airspace or waters. Air forces, navies and coast guards worldwide regularly perform intercepts of this kind to enforce an air defense identification zone such as that in the East China Sea, to police operations such as NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission or, as necessary, to conduct ad hoc tactics. In these capacities, interceptions are almost invariably non-threatening; they are simply a means by which nations enhance their situational awareness and protect against contingencies.
But some interceptions deviate from the norm. In a deliberate ploy to deter a nation's forces from transiting a specific space, aircraft or ships may display aggressive maneuvers, harassing and intimidating targets. These interceptions resemble a high-stakes game of chicken, daring the foreign craft to continue on its route, despite the increased risk of collision, or back down.
Though the tactic carries a risk of damage to both sides, the initiator holds the advantage. Usually in aerial interceptions, a sleek, fast fighter jet targets a lumbering bomber or reconnaissance plane. The initiator of the encounter is often far less valuable — in monetary cost and in the number of flight crew aboard — than the intercepted target, raising the stakes for leaders (and crew) as they decide how to respond. As a fighter jet carries out dangerous maneuvers around it, the target is left to wonder about the interceptor's intentions and skill.
For Russia, close interceptions offer a means to deter U.S. craft without sparking outright combat. The tactic has worked for Moscow already: In July 2014, a Russian jet's aggressive flight so alarmed the crew of a U.S. RC-135 over the Baltic Sea that it accidentally fled into Swedish airspace to evade the interceptor.
But close intercepts do not always go as planned. In the April 2001 Hainan Island incident, for example, a collision during a close intercept left a Chinese pilot dead, his J-8II interceptor destroyed and a U.S. EP-3E signals intelligence aircraft seriously damaged. A number of Cold War-era close intercepts also caused collisions, particularly between ships. This led to the 1972 U.S.-Soviet Incidents at Sea Agreement, which sought to reduce the chances of collision and manage escalation when collisions did occur. Further efforts to limit the risk of escalation produced the 2014 Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, which included Russia and China, as well as a 2014 agreement between the United States and China to regulate incidents between the two.
But the past few years have demonstrated that the agreements are not enough to stop such dangerous close encounters, at least not between the United States and Russia. And given the substantial tension between the two countries, a midair or at-sea collision resulting from a close interception could trigger retaliatory measures, leading to an escalation that neither side wants. Even so, as long as tension persists between Russia and the United States, the interceptions are likely to continue.
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Russia Moves Artillery to Northern Syria, U.S. Officials Say

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Russia has been moving artillery units to areas of northern Syria where Assad government forces have been massing, raising U.S. concern that the two allies may be preparing for a return to full-scale fighting after a nearly two-month cease-fire with the main opposition, U.S. officials say.
The recent Russian redeployments within Syria have been accompanied by the return of some Iranian army forces to government-controlled areas close to the front lines, according to officials briefed on the intelligence. Russia, Iran and the Lebanese movement Hezbollah have been President Bashar al-Assad’s main supporters in the conflict.
U.S. concerns about the Russian buildup in northern Syria, and the negative impact it could have on the cease-fire and political negotiations in Geneva, prompted President Barack Obama’s call to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, officials said.
Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, used unusually harsh language in describing the exchange between the two leaders, calling it an “intense conversation.”
Russian officials have voiced support for the partial cease-fire and the United Nations-mediated negotiations in Geneva, both in public and in private settings, according to U.S. officials.
But both are on the verge of complete collapse. Citing widening attacks by government forces, representatives of the main opposition broke off the latest round of indirect talks on Monday. Government forces have stepped up attacks in some areas in northern and central Syria in recent days, and one opposition negotiator on Tuesday described the truce as over.
Still, the cease-fire, which began Feb. 27, has held far longer than officials in Washington and in the region had expected. It has reduced the overall level of violence in Syria and brought about at least a temporary pause in the proxy fight between Russia, which has supported the Assad regime, and the U.S., which has supported the moderate opposition.
Mr. Obama and White House officials have warned in recent days that the cease-fire could collapse, without mentioning the Russian buildup. The White House declined to comment on the new intelligence. Russian officials in the U.S. didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
After the partial cease-fire took effect in late February, U.S. intelligence agencies tracked the movement of Russian artillery units south to areas where the Assad regime at the time was fighting Islamic State militants, particularly in the Tadmur and Palmyra areas. Russian troops directly man the artillery pieces, which have been used with devastating effect on the battlefield since last year, according to U.S. officials. Russia has also deployed advisers to support the Assad regime in its military campaign, officials said.
Then, about two weeks ago, U.S. intelligence agencies began to detect the redeployment of artillery units to areas near the northern city of Aleppo, the opposition stronghold, and inside Latakia province, near where government forces have been gathering, according to the senior U.S. defense official.
The Russian artillery movements have increased in recent days, raising U.S. alarm about Moscow’s intentions, the official said.
U.S. intelligence agencies have indications that some of the newly-redeployed artillery pieces have been used in recent days in support of government forces, particularly in clashes with the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.
Both the Nusra Front and Islamic State were excluded from the cease-fire brokered by the U.S. and Russia in February.
U.S. officials say Russian forces in Syria have also stepped up the tempo of their air operations in support of the Assad regime in recent days. The Russians are currently conducting about a dozen airstrikes a day, compared with as many as 100 a day before the cease-fire took effect, according to the senior U.S. defense official.
Since the start of the truce, Obama administration officials have been divided over Mr. Putin’s seriousness about finding a political solution to the conflict and his willingness to part ways with Mr. Assad.
Another open question within the Obama administration has been over how much influence Moscow really has with the Assad regime.
U.S. officials pointed to recent statements from Assad regime officials in Damascus about a planned offensive against rebel forces in their Aleppo stronghold in northern Syria. Russian officials told their American counterparts that the regime was bluffing about the offensive, but Moscow was noncommittal about getting Damascus to disavow the idea, either because the Russians knew Damascus wouldn’t listen or because they weren’t sure themselves what the Assad regime’s intentions were, or both, according to officials.
In private meetings with their Russian counterparts, Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan has warned that the alternative to the current cease-fire could be a dangerous escalation on the battlefield, officials have said.
The CIA and its partners in the region have been drawing up a list of anti-artillery and antiaircraft weapons which could be provided to the moderate opposition if the cease-fire collapses and full-scale fighting resumes.
Write to Adam Entous at and Gordon Lubold at
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NATO and Russia to meet, but grievances remain | Reuters

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Russian and NATO envoys are unlikely to ease the worst tensions since the Cold War very much when they meet on Wednesday in their highest-level talks on security in almost two years.

How allegations of Saudi Arabia’s ties to 9/11 plotters became a problem for Obama, again – The Washington Post 

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Obama’s trip to Saudi Arabia prompts renewed scrutiny of 2001 attacks.

Kenyan Musical Brings African Folklore to Life 

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A popular Kenyan cartoon series, Tinga Tinga Tales, has been adapted into a live musical performance. In the stage version, the actors dress up as animals and other characters to teach children African folk tales. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.

US Supreme Court Split on States' Ability to Sue Another

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The U.S. Supreme Court is divided over whether one U.S. state is allowed to sue another. The justices split 4-4 Tuesday over whether to overturn a 27-year-old Supreme Court precedent that allows courts in one state to sue and penalize government agencies in another state. The case stemmed from a tax dispute involving a California resident who moved to Nevada.  Gilbert Hyatt claims he moved to Nevada in 1991, shortly before receiving $40 million in patent fees for developing a computer chip. California officials say Hyatt moved to Nevada in 1992 and owes the state millions in back taxes. The deadlock means the precedent that was considered when the ruling was made, Nevada v. Hall, will remain in effect.  California officials had asked the justices to overturn a 1979 case that said courts in one state can hear a private citizen's lawsuit in another state. In a second case, also involving a state's authority to sue another state, the court ruled 6-2 that the Supreme Court of Nevada was in error when it awarded $1 million in damages to Hyatt, who had sued the California government. The majority ruled the Supreme Court of Nevada ignored rules of immunity by awarding damages above the $50,000 maximum that would be acceptable in similar suits against Nevada. Writing for the majority in the case Franchise Tax Board v. Hyatt, Justice Stephen Bryar said a state cannot treat another state in a "hostile" manner. The 4-4 ruling is the third time the short-handed court has deadlocked since the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

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IS Terror Group Raises Millions from Plundered Relics

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The Islamic State (IS) may have raised as much as $100 million by digging up and selling priceless antiquities from territory it controls, according to experts consulted by a U.S. congressional panel. At a Tuesday hearing of the House Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing, experts said IS is the wealthiest terror group operating today. The illegal relic trade is a "key source" of some of that wealth, according to Lawrence Schindell who tracks art sales and money laundering in the art world and heads ARIS Title Insurance Corporation. Looting of historic sites was going on before IS took over, but witnesses said IS "institutionalized” the activity and operates on an “industrial” scale. IS is organizing an increasingly sophisticated, systematic, destructive and profitable campaign to plunder some of the thousands of archeological sites in areas of Iraq and Syria. Professor Amr Al-Azm of Shawnee State University in Ohio, says IS sees cultural heritage items as resources to be exploited for revenue, in much the same way as oil. Yaya Fanusie of the Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, says the illegal relics trade is not as lucrative as the sale of oil by IS. But he says the relic trade requires less capital investment and can provide work badly needed by residents in areas where the economy is disrupted by conflict. IS also licenses relic hunters in areas under its control, taxes their finds, and is increasingly directly involved in finding and selling these goods. Fanusie says the relic trade is not likely to be disrupted by air strikes that have hurt revenue from oil operations. The relics trade is also easier to foist on populations under IS control, than kidnapping, extortion, confiscation, or taxes which also produce revenue. IS is well known for destroying key historic relics that do not confirm to its ideology, actions that sparked global outrage after assaults on historic relics in Palmyra and elsewhere. Experts say spectacular acts of vandalism by IS are a propaganda tool intended to show the world the international community is powerless to stop them. Witnesses say what is less known is that IS tends to destroy buildings or artifacts that are too large to move, while earning millions by selling many smaller items. Experts say IS methods of collecting relics are destructive, and sometimes employ bulldozers and trucks. Archeologists use trowels and paint brushes to carefully unearth relics. Patty Gerstenblith of the art preservation group Blue Shield says scholars glean great insight from the location and surroundings of their historic finds. She says the crude actions by IS closes these windows into history forever. Gerstenblith says freshly looted antiquities are the “perfect vehicle” for money laundering and other illegal activities connected with terrorism. According to Schindell, that is because artwork is a “high-value highly-portable asset traded in a market defined by discretion.” Several hearing witnesses discussed better tracking of artworks, stronger laws regulating sales of relics harvested in conflict zones, better coordination between financial regulators and law enforcement, and relevant training for intelligence and other agencies. Fanusie says learning more about IS relic operations can give new insight into the terror group's operations, leadership, intentions, and vulnerabilities. He called for Washington to step up enforcement and penalties for relic buyers Schindell says the looting and destruction of the global historic heritage will only stop when smarter enforcement makes selling plundered pieces of history less profitable.

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Kerry, Zarif Meet In New York